- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Aug. 28

The StarNews of Wilmington on the benefits of naloxone:

We’ve been seeing a lot of comments back and forth in The Buzz about use of the drug naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan.

Some critics say that by reversing the effects of an overdose, naloxone encourages opioid users to keep abusing the drugs.

Some of the judgments are harsh:

“Stop using Narcan and let the criminal predators die off. The crime rate and murders will decline. Darwin is correct,” one Buzzard wrote in July.

Naloxone defenders say such views are mean-spirited and misinformed. We do, too. The opioid antidote gives addicts a chance to turn their lives around.

“I overdosed on Front St. Naloxone allowed me to stay alive. Now I am in recovery, married with kids, and a college student,” one person wrote in the Buzz.

We side with those who would save the lives of heroin and opioid abusers, even those addicts who seemingly contribute little to society.

According to The Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalism organization focusing on the criminal justice system, Buzzards aren’t the only ones concerned about reviving overdose victims. Many police officers are frustrated that they’re reviving the same people over and over.

Opioid addiction is reaching epidemic proportions, both nationally and locally. Heroin has become cheap and potent. Addicts will do almost anything to feed their habit, such as stealing or selling their bodies.

But don’t think all addicts are stereotypical “junkies.”

Doctors often prescribe opioids such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin for pain. After the prescription wears off, a patient may be left craving the drug.

Barry Lessin, an addiction psychologist, said the majority of his clients became hooked after taking prescription drugs.

“They are high-functioning individuals - employed, professionals, and students - who want to continue being productive while addressing their physiological opioid dependence,” he wrote in an informative piece headlined “9 Common Questions About a Drug That Saves Lives.”

“Addiction does not discriminate. If the addict was your husband, wife, brother, sister, son or daughter, would you feel better about Narcan?” a Buzzard asked.

Wrightsville Beach is considering equipping its officers with naloxone. If they do, that will mean every law enforcement agency in New Hanover County is carrying the antidote.

As of Aug. 14, county law enforcement officers had used naloxone a total of 31 times, and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office had reversed 10 overdoses. That’s possibly 41 lives saved.

We don’t recall when it became controversial to save lives.

From a practical point of view, not all overdoses are deadly, but can cause major bodily harm and require expensive health care. The quicker an overdose is reversed, the better.

Everyone deserves a second chance, and yes, maybe a third and fourth chance.

Jonathan Goyer, a former addict quoted in the Marshall Project story, made the most of his second chance.

“Being saved by Narcan offered me that opportunity to reflect on my life,” he said. “Narcan kept me alive until I wanted to live.”

Online: https://www.starnewsonline.com/

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Aug. 31

The Fayetteville Observer on diversion programs for juvenile offenders:

In just about every other state, if a kid who’s 16 or 17 gets in trouble with the law, he’ll go through a juvenile court and corrections system that will send him into adulthood without the formidable roadblock of a criminal record.

Not so in North Carolina and New York, the last two states in the country that treat lawbreakers of that age as adults.

For most other purposes, a 16-year-old is a minor. That’s true for voting, for drinking, for serving in the military, for getting a loan or for getting married without parental consent. But if that teenager commits a crime and is arrested, he will find himself in the adult corrections system, surrounded by hardened criminals and gaining a record that will impose a lifetime of hardship.

That’s wrong, and many people in our criminal-justice system know it. Thankfully, the system in Cumberland County is doing something about it - because the General Assembly hasn’t.

On Thursday, county government, law enforcement, the courts, the District Attorney’s Office and public defenders will announce a new Misdemeanor Diversion Program that will send teens accused of non-felony offenses into 90 days of classes, mentoring, community service and other required activities.

If participants complete the program, they get on with their lives without a criminal record. If they wash out, they still can face adult charges.

This is a laudable step for Cumberland County, but we need more company. All of the state’s 100 counties should do the same, but that won’t happen until the General Assembly looks at evidence showing that 16- and 17-year-olds lack the fully developed brains of adults and thus shouldn’t be held to adult standards. Kids do dumb things and it shouldn’t permanently derail their lives.

This is the second sensible program local law enforcement has adopted this year. In May, the Fayetteville Police Department said it will start the LEAD program - an acronym for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion - which gets help for low-level offenders instead of sending them through the courts and jails.

People caught buying or selling small amounts of drugs, committing larceny or engaging in prostitution will be diverted into treatment, housing, education and employment. The program has worked well elsewhere, found more effective than the traditional judicial process.

It’s clear that what we’ve done in the past hasn’t worked well for us. These two initiatives are likely to save lives and halt criminal careers before they become a way of life.

Online: https://www.fayobserver.com/

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Aug. 31

The Daily Reflector of Greenville on early voting:

As if the battle over gender identity wasn’t enough to place North Carolina under the national microscope - for all the wrong reasons - the state’s ongoing battles over voting access have only made matters worse. To simplify this argument, all that can be done - including Sunday voting - to assure that every qualified voter in the state gets to the polls on Nov. 8 should be done without opposition.

The recent decision by the Pitt County Board of Elections to close polling on Sundays was errant and regrettable.

All factors being equal, omitting Sunday voting would be tolerable, whether based on religious reasons, staffing challenges or traditional beliefs. But there is little equal about voting in North Carolina. A panel of three judges with the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, when striking down North Carolina’s voter ID law in July, noted that an absence of discriminatory intent when crafting the law misses the point: “The link between race and politics in North Carolina.”

To restore a measure of equality in the voting process, the court’s ruling also restored a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensured that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting will remain in effect.

Does early voting matter in Pitt County? About 62 percent of Pitt County voters used early voting in 2012, according to data gathered by nonpartisan voting advocacy group, Democracy North Carolina. It is heavily employed by black voters.

Voting on Nov. 8 will be a chore in Pitt County.

“The truth is that Pitt County’s election system depends on a strong early voting program,” Democracy North Carolina’s Bob Hall said. “Voting time (needed) and lines will also be longer because straight-party voting was repealed - and nearly two thirds of Pitt County voters in 2012 used this option.”

Pitt County’s 3-member election board seemingly did its best to accommodate the court’s July requirement to add seven days to its early voting schedule, for a total of 17 days. It includes seven locations, voting from 8:30 a.m.-6:30pm, Monday through Saturday. It also includes more hours than any plan ever adopted in Pitt County. The early voting plan for the 2012 general had five locations and 545 hours. The 2016 plan has 7 locations and 831 hours.

Reported accusations that Pitt County Election Board chairman Patrick Nelson and board member Mark Stewart are bigoted in light of their majority decision to close on Sundays appear grossly unfair. Nelson said the two received threats of violence because of their votes. If true, this is intolerable and should be closely investigated.

Nevertheless, when every effort is needed to accommodate as many eligible voters as possible at the polls, closing early voting sites on Sundays won’t help.

Online: https://www.reflector.com/


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